Articles in the Category Philosophy

In Defense of Catching and Counting Fish — Why numbers in the Net Matter

As we pursue trout and aim for perfect presentations that convince, it certainly matters if we catch one, five, ten or twenty.

One trout is luck. Three or four signals that we’re doing something right. And a few more trout starts to be enough data to dial in a tactic, or a water type, or a fly pattern. This is the true joy of fishing for numbers. With enough response from the trout, we can honestly learn the trout habits. We aren’t lucking into a couple fish. Instead, we’re refining a system that meets the trout on their own terms. What are those terms? Catching more than a few trout is the only way to find out . . .

Missing the Mornings

Dawn to daylight. From the dim, sparkling haze of first light, to the breaking solar rays across tree tops. These are the magic hours.

A clean slate. A fresh-faced river. New light and raw beginnings for forgetful fish. Recently out of the darkness, the trout’s guard is down. He trusts more. He worries less.

The new day is a blank canvas — an unwritten chapter of events and plans. Not your plans, but the river’s plans. Because such decisions are not for any of us to choose.

Walk deep into the backcountry one day, cut through the darkness before pre-dawn, and experience this. Arrive before first light to a place untouched for some time. Feel the newness, the virginity of first light among the surrounding hills . . .

Grandfather

He didn’t fish. He hunted. Wandering over wooded mountains, and whispering through the wheat fields, I followed my grandfather into a broken forest. We climbed over long oaks, and we scaled fallen hemlock trunks to reach the other side of a small stream. My footsteps fell into his. He walked slowly — much slower than a boy’s patience could match. And when my eagerness overtook me, Grandfather turned to force my pause. He leaned in and granted me this wisdom: “Slowly, child. Life’s secrets are in these trees.”

He was gone before my sons were born.

And now, when I enter these forests, these forgotten tramps, miles away from industry and deep inside shaded canyons, the wet moss absorbs my footfalls and silences the mental rush of an average life. These muted and hushed moments are given for remembering . . .

Patience vs Persistence

Patience and persistence — in some ways they are opposites. Patience is waiting for something to happen. And persistence is making something happen.

And all you need is a full day spent with a persistent fisherman to know that your patience isn’t really getting anything done.

Over time, patience has been pinned to fishing, as if the two go hand in hand. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway. So once again, it’s apparent that words themselves change the way we think about things. Words and meanings change how we do things. New anglers are taught that fishing is a quiet, patient sport. And so they wait. And they are content when nothing happens.

Missing the Mornings

Missing the Mornings

Dawn to daylight. From the dim, sparkling haze of first light, to the breaking solar rays across tree tops. These are the magic hours.

A clean slate. A fresh-faced river. New light and raw beginnings for forgetful fish. Recently out of the darkness, the trout’s guard is down. He trusts more. He worries less.

The new day is a blank canvas — an unwritten chapter of events and plans. Not your plans, but the river’s plans. Because such decisions are not for any of us to choose.

Walk deep into the backcountry one day, cut through the darkness before pre-dawn, and experience this. Arrive before first light to a place untouched for some time. Feel the newness, the virginity of first light among the surrounding hills . . .

Grandfather

Grandfather

He didn’t fish. He hunted. Wandering over wooded mountains, and whispering through the wheat fields, I followed my grandfather into a broken forest. We climbed over long oaks, and we scaled fallen hemlock trunks to reach the other side of a small stream. My footsteps fell into his. He walked slowly — much slower than a boy’s patience could match. And when my eagerness overtook me, Grandfather turned to force my pause. He leaned in and granted me this wisdom: “Slowly, child. Life’s secrets are in these trees.”

He was gone before my sons were born.

And now, when I enter these forests, these forgotten tramps, miles away from industry and deep inside shaded canyons, the wet moss absorbs my footfalls and silences the mental rush of an average life. These muted and hushed moments are given for remembering . . .

Patience vs Persistence

Patience vs Persistence

Patience and persistence — in some ways they are opposites. Patience is waiting for something to happen. And persistence is making something happen.

And all you need is a full day spent with a persistent fisherman to know that your patience isn’t really getting anything done.

Over time, patience has been pinned to fishing, as if the two go hand in hand. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway. So once again, it’s apparent that words themselves change the way we think about things. Words and meanings change how we do things. New anglers are taught that fishing is a quiet, patient sport. And so they wait. And they are content when nothing happens.

The Walkout

The Walkout

. . .The patch of forest beyond was more open than I remembered, and I walked easily through tall spruce and dying ferns, chasing the last remaining shade-line sideways until it disappeared. Silence soaked in with the shade. With the fading light, I felt the cool earth of the forest reach up and take over what the fleeting sun had left behind.

These changes of light and season happen both suddenly and gradually, depending on your own perspective and movement in time. Sit still for a while and watch the daylight fade into blackness, and it takes hours. But walk among the trees at dusk, across a soft bed of spruce needles, after a long day on the river, and time speeds up. The pace of the trees, the perspective of the forest takes hold within you, and a good long look into the future looks a lot like the past, with the days and nights rolling into each other, turning in concentric circles, day to night, season to season, through a window of time both small and wide all at once — and all of it happening both here and somewhere else concurrently, though you can’t be sure . . .

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

The beauty of this life is in knowing that the best things don’t come around every day, accepting that it’s all unpredictable and trusting that the bad things will be followed up with something better. You have to let it all happen, and at the same time get out there and make your own way.

A good life is 50/50. That’s just the way it goes. Not much turns out how you planned. There are ups, downs, highs and lows. There are fears and joys, and somehow it all blends together in the end.

There’s something wonderful, calming and reassuring about that balance . . .

Right Here

Right Here

I guess I’ve been searching for something.

For months now, I’ve spent my limited opportunities on the water fishing progressively more remote locations. Turning down offers to float and cast over abundant wild brown trout on our major rivers, I thought I was looking for solitude. What I’ve found is a companion so powerful it cannot be passed off as simple memory. It’s my own history, and I’ve felt it so presently that it seems at times my flat shadow may take form and rise from the leafy ground to start a conversation.

I’ve returned to the waters where I’ve been, to revisit not the fish, but the places in time. These memories are eminently tangible out there, without the clutter of accumulated things in my home, the garage or the grocery store to get in the way. A trout stream, miles removed from hard roads, and sunken into a valley beyond the distance of average effort, offers a peaceful reward and a natural, blank slate for anyone willing to seek it. And when thirty years have passed between visits, the reflections I’ve found in these old, familiar waters are astonishing.

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Jeff’s Chicken

Jeff’s Chicken

In his mid-twenties, my friend Jeff walked away from his job to be a trout bum for a few months. It was a bold move, but a strategic one. Jeff had enough funds saved up to float him from late spring all the way into the fall, and he simply wanted to hang out, drink beer and catch trout for a while.

Some people hike the Appalachian trail. Others take a year after school to travel across Canada or maybe backpack through Europe, if you have that kind of money. Jeff just wanted to fish the hell out of Central Pennsylvania and be a trout bum for once. So that’s what we did.

At the time, my own lifestyle was pretty flexible. I’d already spent five or six years exploring Central and North-Central Pennsylvania during the day and playing music in clubs and bars at night. Gas was cheap then, and it was nothing for me to wake at dawn and travel north for a hundred miles.

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Absence | Goodbye, Winter

Absence | Goodbye, Winter

I hold on to winter longer than anyone else I know. I love winter for what it is, for what it makes me feel, for what it turns me into — for how it forces family to huddle closer, and for how exquisitely alone I feel outside.

Winter is the season of absence.

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From Pennsylvania to Montana and Back

From Pennsylvania to Montana and Back

Early August in Montana, 2007. The afternoons burned hot, but the mornings were bitter and covered in frost. Our days swam together until neither the time nor the day of the week mattered at all. Dad and I had two weeks and more, long enough that the internal nagging and questioning about how long before all this had to end were sent away. We watched no television and kept the radio off. We visited no restaurants and no bars. With two coolers and a camper-freezer full of food, we restocked at a grocery store only once.  It’s as far away from everything and anything as I’ve ever been, for as long of a time as I’ve ever known. There were timeless, surreal moments, and they were fantastically long . . .

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